WHEN THE SUN set Saturday night, it looked as though the end of the baseball season were only 24 hours away. The Orioles were singing gaily, and the Pirates, having been beaten twice in their own ballpark, were almost in hiding. But the end did not come on Sunday -- it was the Orioles who were blown away that day -- and the teams have returned to Baltimore for the last one or two games.

That is as it should be. The Baltimore fans deserve to be on hand to savor a World Series victory when their heroes wrap it up. They have been remarkably supportive (and vociferous and possessive, as the letters to the editor today demonstrate) ever since the possibility was raised that the Orioles might fly south to the warmer weather of Washington.

That possibility, quite naturally, has heightened the interest of Washington residents in the outcome of this Series. But it was the Baltimore fans -- 2,000 of them -- who welcomed the team at BWI Airport Sunday night after that disastrous day in Pittsburgh. Their loyalty should have helped wash away the taste of those last few innings when the Orioles' pitching collapsed and its hitters stopped hitting.

Those fans can hardly be expected to sympathize with our desire to make the Birds our own -- and we do not blame them. Any city that has been stripped of a major-league baseball team knows too well the feelings they are expressing. But any city that has twice been robbed of a team, as Washington has, should be forgiven for having larceny on its mind.

This has been a peculiar and, in one way, a terrible World Series. The first two games were close and hard-fought, as becomes two fine teams. The next three were, shall we say, something less than classic. But overshadowing all of them has been the weather. Never can we recall such dismal settings for the last few games of a baseball season.

Bats have shattered at a prodigious rate and players have made errors on balls they should have handled routinely. The cold and the rain have had more to do with that than have the jitters that sometimes affect even professional athletes when the stakes are large.

The forecast for the weather will be good, although a trifle cold, for the sixth game and maybe even for a seventh, if a seventh is needed. That, like ending the series in Baltimore, is appropriate. The players of both teams deserve better conditions than they have had in which to display their abilities.And Oriole fans, be they in Baltimore or Washington, deserve something other than rain through which to watch the sun set on the Pirates.